Is Nvidia the next Intel, asks Wired:
For a perfect example of the changing dynamic between the graphics processing unit (GPU) and CPU, look at the Xbox. It uses a special version of Nvidia’s nForce chipset, built around a tricked-out GeForce3 to handle graphics and sound. Microsoft paid Nvidia more than it did Intel for its 733-MHz Pentium III. For Huang, it’s a proof of concept. “The Xbox is how the computer will be built in the next 20 years. More semiconductor capacity will go to the user experience,” he says. “The microprocessor will be dedicated to other things like artificial intelligence. That trend is helpful to us. It’s a trend that’s inevitable.”
If he’s right, then Nvidia will be smartly positioned. Even more so should it encroach on the CPU business. An April 1 story posted on Slashdot announced a merger between Nvidia and AMD – where Huang used to work. It was meant as a joke, but such a merger has been the subject of serious speculation for months. It would give Nvidia total control of the PC’s innards and, eventually, an array of post-PC devices. Huang doesn’t cop to this plan, but when he talks about expanding into handhelds, dashboards, and cell phones, he never suggests waiting for Intel – or anyone else. “Some people say the network is the computer. We believe the display is the computer,” he says. “Anywhere there’s a pixel, that’s where we want to be.”
I also came across a comment by John Robb on Nvidia on why he’s buying their stock:
- Graphics processors are chewing up cycles faster than the flatlined PC CPU. Usage equals demand. Control of the interface is extremely important.
- The parallel architecture of graphics processors allow it to boost price performance at a 2 to 1 rate over PC CPUs. A doubling rate of 6 vs. 18 months. nVidia’s chips have twice the number of transistors the Pentium 4 has. That also means production scale will narrow the number of firms able to produce a chip this large.
- There is going to be convergence between the graphics used to create movies and games. This is going to be huge. Imagine if the Star Wars game looked as good as the movie — the sales would be huge.
- nVidia will likely acquire AMD to add CPU functionality as a side feature of its chips (to move beyond their joint venture). That means over time the price of a multimedia PC using an AMD/nVidia combined chip could be 30% lower than an Intel powered model. Given AMD’s major second quarter loss, this acquisition will likely be done for a song.
- Microsoft is likely to create a home server that is tightly integrated (following on the heals of the Xbox’s second generation). An AMD/nVidia chip could be central to that new box. It’s also likely that the brand of the chip used will be subsumed into the general conumer electronics style marketing that this new home server will use. That loss of branding will hurt Intel.
As I thought about Nvidia and Intel, a few questions occured to me: can a similar thing can occur on the desktop and with Microsoft? What can dethrone Windows, what is its replacement, the next Windows?
A mistake we’ve been making is thinking of the Linux desktop as the replacement for Windows. Thats like thinking of AMD as the new Intel. It isn’t going to happen.
The new Desktop/Windows is the Digital Dashboard. Like Nvidia’s GPUs, it focuses on the user experience — what do users in enterprises see when they switch on the computer? Thats where the focus should be.
Windows still focuses on the world of files and directories, along with Mail, Office and the Browser. But they are just the building blocks. This is where there is an opportunity to build the new OS: think of it as the “Office System” rather than the Operating System.
This Digital Dashboard will be built using RSS Aggregation, Blogs and Outlines. This combo hides the underlying plumbing, doesn’t care where the information is coming from and focuses on the collaborative experience.
So, to do an Nvidia to Microsoft means rethinking the user experience on the desktop, and that means integrating the information flow onto one screen. This is the corporate portal, yes. But the portals of today are not open. The standard they need to support for reading and writing information is RSS.
RSS has so far been used mostly by few (primarily the bloggers) for getting their news from various sites. Think of the bloggers as the equivalent of the Xbox in Nvidia’s world. Just as Nvidia thinks Xbox will define the new computer of tomorrow, the interface that bloggers use will define the desktop of tomorrow. And that’s going to be primarily built around RSS and Blogs, with feeds coming in not just from news sites but also from within the enterprise.